Debate on the National Food Security Bill
By Gayatri Sahgal, 26 Jun 2010

An essential aspect of ensuring that benefits reach the desired beneficiaries includes the ability of beneficiaries to hold the power holders to account; to make them responsible for their behaviour and actions. In the context of the debate on right to food, the first draft bill formulated by the government, titled ‘The National Food Security Bill’, failed to comprehensively address such core concerns. Accountability issues were largely glossed over with only respite involving a commitment to ensure the monitoring of finances by the Gram Sabha, through the medium of social audits. Notwithstanding, the limited discussion on accountability the main provisions of the proposed Act were widely attacked by civil society groups and academicians. The strongest opposition has emerged from the Right to Food Campaign who expressed their displeasure by formulating an alternative draft proposal. This proposal, referred to as the ‘Food and Entitlement Act’, while calling for a need to consolidate and expand existing entitlements along with addressing the structural causes of food insecurity, also included a separate section exclusively dedicated to addressing issues of accountability. The draft proposed the need to empower the Gram Sabha with the powers to monitor the implementation of the act, as well offered a detailed outline of the structure of the grievance redressal to be established to address complaints related to the violation of the provision the act. With the debate on the right to food stirring up again it seems prudent to take stock of how the accountability debate has been structured thus far.

Click here to view a table comparing the accountability provisions in the 'National Food Security Bill' and the 'Food and Entitlement Act'.